[guest post by Dana]
Jaweed Kaleem, the national race and justice correspondent at the Los Angeles Times, considers whether Muslims can find a home in the Republican Party. Central to his inquiry is a report that the Tarrant County GOP in Texas is voting on whether to remove Shahid Shafi as vice chairman. This because he is a Muslim:
Muslim Americans will reach a milestone next week when Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar join the House of Representatives. The Democrats from Michigan and Minnesota will be the first Muslim women in Congress, and many have hailed their election as a sign of rising diversity in politics.
On the other side of the aisle, a brewing controversy over a GOP leader in Texas targeted by fellow party members because of his Muslim faith is also drawing national attention. It has become a test case for an issue the Republican Party struggles with as voters in Texas and beyond grow more racially and religiously diverse: Is there room for Muslims?
Members of the Tarrant County Republican Party will vote Jan. 10 on whether Shahid Shafi, a 53-year-old trauma surgeon and city councilman in the Fort Worth suburb of Southlake since 2014, should be removed as a vice chairman.
A precinct chairwoman forced the vote after making unproven claims that Shafi, who has served as a delegate to several GOP state conventions, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism and wants to impose sharia law. Other precinct chairs have joined in the calls to remove Shafi.
Shafi, who has forcefully denied the accusations, declined to be interviewed. In a statement, he said he would not “allow this small group of closed-minded people to damage our party.”
“I have never had any association with the Muslim Brotherhood … nor any terrorist organization,” Shafi said. “I believe that the laws of our nation are our Constitution and the laws passed by our elected legislatures — I have never promoted any form of sharia law.”
It was after his appointment to the position in July that ugly Facebooks posts about Shafi and his faith, started appearing. The calls for the vote to remove him come from a bigoted precinct chairwoman:
Dorrie O’Brien, a precinct chairwoman from Grand Prairie, called for the vote — under party rules, a single chairperson can propose an appointee’s removal — and is among those spearheading the campaign against Shafi. On a Facebook posting about him, O’Brien appeared to say Muslims were inherently extremist.
“ISIS is Islam with all the public fakery removed,” she wrote, referring to the Islamic State militant group. In an interview, she said she and allies “certainly have enough votes” to oust Shafi.
O’Brien declined to answer further questions and referred The Times to a December article on the website Jihad Watch that quoted her. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Jihad Watch, which it says is based in Sherman Oaks, as an anti-Muslim hate group.
“We believe that Dr. Shafi is unsuitable to be the face and voice representative for all Republicans in Tarrant County,” O’Brien says in the article. “There are too many questions surrounding him on too many issues.”
Aside from targeting Shafi’s religion, O’Brien and her allies have questioned whether he is sufficiently pro-Israel and whether he’s really a conservative.
In his statement, Shafi said he believes in “Israel’s right to exist” and listed his conservative credentials, including training local GOP candidates and founding a Republican club in Southlake.
To their credit, and as they should, notable Texas GOP leaders have come out in support of Shafi, condemning all religious tests:
[S]tate party leaders this month passed a resolution [in a vote of 63-0] to “reaffirm our core values of religious liberty and the freedom to practice all faiths.”
Prominent party members, including Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz, have spoken out in his favor. “The party of Lincoln should welcome everybody & celebrate liberty,” Cruz tweeted this month.
It seems unbelievable that this is where a wing of the GOP is at in 2019. In Tarrant County, at least, the Big Tent party appears to have been replaced by a Little Pup Tent of bigotry and discrimination, designed for only a few of the right kind of Republicans from a county of 2 million people. In spite of the swift condemnation by Texas GOP members, the impact of this discrimination could spell trouble for Republicans down the line:
“There is no doubt that the Republican Party has lost American Muslim support,” said Republican activist Suhail Khan, a Muslim who was a White House appointee under President George W. Bush and volunteered with Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. A corporate attorney living in Washington, D.C., Khan founded the Conservative Inclusion Coalition eight years ago to recruit Muslims and other racially and religiously diverse groups to conservative causes.
Khan called Shafi one of the “most prominent” sitting elected Muslim Republicans today. He described the politician as among a handful of remaining lines of defense for the Republican Party in a time when it has been accused of being anti-Muslim through its association with Trump.
“Dr. Shafi’s situation is an unfortunate case of discrimination and bigotry,” Khan said.
Darl Easton, the Republican Party chairman in Tarrant County who appointed Shafi to his position, agreed.
“There are some people in our party who are plain anti-Muslim,” Easton said.
Both were in firm agreement that the president had nothing to do with this situation or for anti-Muslim sentiment.
More from Shafi’s statement:
“The call to remove me from the party of Lincoln and Reagan because of my religion is wrong for several reasons,” Shafi said. “First, discrimination based upon religion is illegal, immoral, unethical, un-American, and against the foundations of our country and the principles of our party. Second, it plays right into the false narrative of racism and bigotry fomented against the Republican party. Third, it distracts from our core value of religious liberty.”
In his statement, Shafi touted his conservative values: “I support our 2nd Amendment rights unconditionally, and I believe in the sanctity of life from conception onwards. I believe in small government, lower taxes, individual responsibility, religious freedom, school choice, energy independence, rule of law, and secure borders.”
So, what’s not to like?
A few observations. First, with regard to whether the president has anything to do with anti-Muslim sentiments and this case specifically: I think to say he does is to give him to much credit while taking ownership away from the bigots for their own indecency. While the president clearly has his own issues with bigotry, let’s let adults be responsible for themselves and the choices they make. Whether an individual’s choice is to love their neighbor or whether it’s to “otherize” their neighbor because of their faith and/or skin color and subsequently cast them into their little smug, bigoted basket of deplorables, it’s on them. Let them own their own choices, and let them own the consequences of those decisions. Why give them any room to blame someone else for what they themselves have chosen to do?
Also, because this is ugly bigoted and discriminatory behavior that is rightfully being condemned, all bigotry should be as equally condemned. With that, while Jaweed Kaleem, author of the LAT report about the mistreatment of Dr. Shafi by members of Tarrant County GOP, praises the milestone of two Muslim American women of color joining the House of Representatives, he conveniently neglects to mention their own public bigotry and anti-Semitism:
(Yes, the tweet is from 2012, but if the rule makers said it was okay to “resurface” tweets from a Heisman trophy winner from six years ago when he was a 15-year old kid, how much more important coming from a then 30+ year old adult who happens to also be a newly elected official?)
And while Kyler Murray apologized for his bigoted tweets, Omar hasn’t. In fact, she’s double-downed, making her views unequivocally clear:
During her campaign, Omar met with members of the district’s large Jewish population to address concerns over past statements about Israel. In a commonly referenced tweet from 2012, when the Israeli military carried out an aerial campaign against rocket attacks by Hamas, Omar wrote that Israel had “hypnotized the world” and made reference to its “evil doings.”
In a recent interview with the Star Tribune, Omar characterized attention to her tweets about Israel as an effort to “stigmatize and shame me into saying something other than what I believed.”
This year, Omar also referred to Israel as an “apartheid regime”.
Moreover, newly elected Rashida Tlaib outs herself with regard to Israel:
Tlaib has embraced a one-state solution and denying the Jews their right to a sovereign nation. “Separate but equal does not work,” she said in an interview, citing her Palestinian heritage as her rationale. (Funny how fellow Rep. Justin Amash, who is largely isolationist on foreign policy, has never used his Palestinian heritage as a scapegoat; Amash publicly supports a two-state solution.)
Like [Rep. Steve] King, the company Tlaib keeps gives the lie to her intentions. In 2014, she headlined a BDS rally with a fellow speaker, Dawud Walid, a flagrant anti-Semite who has blamed the “wrath of Allah” on “the Jews.” Tlaib is also a friend of Linda Sarsour and an admirer of Rasmea Odeh, an anti-Semitic terrorist.
Quite clearly, in certain circles, all acts of bigotry and discrimination are not equal. Nor are they equally condemned, as they should be. And that dishonesty is perhaps the greatest shame of all.